Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Catholic Man, the Catholic Priest as Provider

In past columns, I have written about the role of the Catholic man and the Catholic priest as warrior and healer.  Certainly, the role of the shepherd includes these things.  The shepherd must defend his flock and must heal his flock when damage has happened.  However, the vast majority of the time of a shepherd is in feeding his flock.  He also trains his flock so they don't wander away and into danger. 

Many men used to see the role of provider as the strongest role.  However, it was narrow definition: they earned the money to buy what was needed for the care of their family. This is important to be sure.  But being a provider is much larger.  Why?  Because the needs of his flock are much greater than merely taking care of their physical beings.  Because our flock are also spiritual and intellectual beings, there are things that we do to provide to address.

The husband is called by the Scriptures to be the spiritual head of the home.  This has fallen in so very many ways in western Christianity.  When the father abandons the faith, it has a profound effect on the faith of their flock.  In 1994, the Swiss government commissioned a stud that was published in 2000.  the study was on the effect of the faith of parents on the faith of their children.  The largest factor was the faith or lack thereof the father.  If the dad is disengaged from faith or random about faith, they likelihood of the child adhering to the faith plummeted to 2-3%.  When the dad model faithlessness, the children will normally and overwhelmingly follow suit.  How can we believe that the God who gave these children to our care will take kindly to our isolating our children from Him?

Husbands have a primary job before God to lead their wife and children to God.  He has his wife leading him closer to God.  A man can provide every earthly benefit to his child but lead both him and his children to eternal damnation if he neglects teaching his children to enter into and hold onto a relationship with Christ and His Church. So many men will abandon this role to their wife who already has a role in the spiritual development of her children.  Some do this because they are indifferent to faith.  Some do it because they feel inadequate.  Most do because being a spiritual head of home was not modeled for them.  They don't know how to do it. Their dads didn't teach them how and neither did their priests.

A priest is called 'father'.  That is not a title of respect.  No, it is a constant reminder of his duty.  I would imagine every time a dad hears his child call him 'dad', he is reminded of the duty he owes this child.  A bad dad only worries about what the child owes him  A bad priest only worries about what he is owed.  Every time I hear 'father', I don't hear a clerical version of being called mister, no I hear the voice of someone who is looking to me to provide.  It is the term of a relationship. 

When we priests run our parishes as businesses, fraternal orders, social work agencies, or country clubs, we poison the role we are to fill.  When we cease to see our parishioners as our family, fellow members of the Body of Christ and see them as customers, we radically denigrate the spiritual heritage we are given.  Being a dad is not a 9-5 job.  The children will have needs 24/7.  Our flock, our parishioners, have needs 24/7.  We priests are supposed to model what it means to be a spiritual head of the home.  I believe the more we center our identity on the this, the greater we see vocations rise.  We must stop delegating our duties to series of nannies and walk away for our own self fulfillment.  The spiritual head of him is called to be poured out like a libation, not walled up behind a dam whose spillways are occasionally opened and only the excess is let loose.

Both dads/husbands and priests must understand that being the provider is a matter of throwing money at bills and programs and letting someone else do the interpersonal stuff.   Well kept buildings are worthless when they stand empty.  Providing the care and leadership is more hands on and done a personal cost.  The greatest thing we provide is example.  We are called by virtue of our baptism to build up the Body of Christ; that is done by the active engagement in the lives of those placed in our care.  That is done by consciously and selflessly providing for those in our care. 

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